Making your own circuit boards can be a daunting challenge. You have to design a schematic, test it on a breadboard, design the board layout, and then after all of that, you still have to print and etch a board! Luckily, we have Fritzing.
Fritzing is a free open-source PCB design suite that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Fritzing has a simple and realistic interface that makes designing circuits intuitive. Fritzing allows users to document their prototypes, share them with others, teach electronics in a classroom, and to create a PCB layout for professional manufacturing.
How to create an electronic part?
Creating an electronic part for Fritzing involved at first the analysis of the respective datasheet in order to get an overview of the nature of the connectors available. This prepares the creation of three svg assets, corresponding to the breadboard, schematic and PCB views, that are later to be linked together.
While the design of the assets related to “schematic” and “PCB” views is very framed, the design of the “breadboard” part provided me with the opportunity to reinterpret in 2D elements that are otherwise encountered in 3D. I avoided gradients in order to optimize the amount of resources needed by the software to run.
Since its inception, Fritzing (which was still in beta) had evolved a lot by 2011. In this context, it was important for the development team to check on how good it fits the needs of physical computing beginners. These are a critical category of users.
After having defined the main use cases of our target audience, we created and conducted four-parts tests based on a diagnostic evaluation. They probed the whole user experience of a beginner, from downloading the software to the modification of a sketch. Our work included the conception of all the associated documents, including forms and test manuals. Within each post-test phase, we used the quantitative analysis method SUMI (Software Usability Measurement Inventory).
The analysis of the gathered data helped us to create an overview of usability issues and made some design recommendations through two redesign proposals: the first one was economically affordable (important for an open-source project) and the other one was involving comprehensive changes in the structure of the software.
Purpose Of Fritzing
The software program allows designers and other professionals to record their prototypes created for various circuits and design corresponding PCBs. You can use the company website to communicate your ideas and drafts with other individuals. Others may create electronic items based on your prototypes. This concept of sharing helps reduce production costs.
One of the great advantages of Fritzing is amateur electronics enthusiasts can design circuits and build PCBs suited to their needs. All the gear needed is available from the Fritzing store.
You can even play with the Raspberry Pi using Fritzing. The rapidly growing Fritzing library now features the Raspberry Pi Model B!
Making Your Own PCB
You can design and create a printed circuit board using the Fritzing software.
Print your circuit diagram onto a sheet of glossy photographic paper using a laser printer. Place the sheet on a copper board with the printed side facing the board. Run a hot clothes iron over the sheet. If you have done the job well, you should get a clear etching of the circuit on the board. You may need to clear away the excess copper with a Ferric Chloride solution.
Be careful with the Ferric Chloride solution as this is a very corrosive liquid and will eat through most clothing and skin. Wearing a PVC apron, gloves and PVC shoes is recommended when working with Ferric Chloride.
The Fritzing software company provides a service called the Fritzing Fab. You will have to upload your file, place your order and make the payment. At the time of placing your order, you can request extra services like punching holes for mounting the board. The company will deliver your printed circuit board in about two weeks.
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